Under the Magnifying Glass

What is the main idea of the Year of Italy in Russia/Russia in Italy?

The Year of Italy in Russia and vice versa represents a moment of greater visibility where all existing forms of cooperation between Italy and Russia are somehow under a magnifying glass, more easily reach the public and have more impact on it. But it is also a very powerful catalyst of major events that can be organized only in very specific occasions and that symbolically represent the level of excellence of relations. The main idea that underpins our program is to offer the best of our cultural production to our Russian partners and to link the past — meaning respective cultural heritages and their deep historical relations — with the future: in essence to build upon an existing basis to energize all areas of cooperation whose potential is really enormous.

What events are the Italian organizers most excited to present in Russia?

There are a variety of events that we are very eager to present to our Russian friends. Our program is particularly intense, and it encompasses exposition of iconic pictures of Italian masters, music and ballet, cinema, theater, literature and poetry with more than 100 great events and 1,000 initiatives not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in more than 30 cities of Russia. If I had to pick the most significant events of the program that still have to take place and that will doubtless attract the attention of the Russian public, I would refer to the great exhibitions of pictures of Caravaggio (one of the biggest ever organized outside Italy) in the Pushkin Museum and of "The Treasures of the Medici" in the Kremlin Museum, as well as to the "Bust of Medusa" by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that is currently exhibited at the Pushkin Museum after a one-week exhibition period in the embassy. As far as music is concerned, I would recall the performances of the Orchestra of Teatro San Carlo di Napoli in October at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and of Teatro alla Scala in November at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow with "Requiem" by Verdi (Daniel Barenboim will conduct), while ballet will be represented by two performances of "Balletto del Teatro alla Scala" in December, again at the Bolshoi Theater. As for cinema, the initiative "Italian cinema between memory and future" will bring to Russia the best Italian protagonists and movies. Last but not least a specific set of events will be devoted to fashion, design, technological and industrial innovation.

What is the history of cultural exchange between Italy and Russia? Did these links continue during the Soviet period?

The pattern of cultural exchanges between Italy and Russia has very deep roots in history. The most striking evidence is architecture.

The pattern of cultural exchanges between Italy and Russia has very deep roots in history. The most striking evidence is of course architecture, where indelible marks were left by Italian masters both in the palaces of the Kremlin of Moscow (by Aristotile Fioravanti and Pietro Solari) and in the structure of St. Petersburg, whose current shape was largely determined by the work of architects Antonio Rinaldi, Carlo Rossi, Giacomo Quarenghi and Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The Italian landscape and heritage also had a great influence in building the artistic and world view of many Russian painters in the 19th century. (Sylvester Shchedrin, who long lived in Naples and painted its beauties is a good example.) Russian culture has of course had a deep impact on the Italian elite; I am thinking in particular of the great Russian novels of the 19th century. This mutual interest and these cultural links have never ceased, even during the Soviet period, and prominent representatives of post-war Italian culture visited the Soviet Union several times, including world-renowned painter Renato Guttuso or the journalist and writer Italo Calvino.

How might the Year of Italy in Russia/Russia in Italy influence Italian citizens' impressions of Russia, and Russia's impression of Italy?

The point is not to discover each other, because historical cultural bounds are so strong that we can actually say that Russian and Italian citizens share the same cultural space. I am convinced that our activities will however have quite a strong impact: They can help younger generations remember something that is already part of their cultural heritage — be it masters of the Renaissance for Russian citizens or the great Russian literature for Italian citizens — and they contribute to reinforce the depth and scope of our cultural relations.

Is this year of cultural exchange linked to building any greater political or economical partnership between Italy and Russia?

We are expecting as a result a dynamic growth of bilateral cooperation: As for economic cooperation, we not only expect to widen partnerships for major companies already operating in Russia and to foster trade, but we also aim to strengthen cooperation in the strategic sectors related to modernization and new technologies. As far as society is concerned, the target is to multiply contacts among individuals, cultural institutions, universities and associations from Italy and Russia. We are trying to contribute to this process by also acting on the visa issue: Free visas are being issued for people involved in the organization of the Year of Russia in Italy and vice versa.     

Russia - Italy 2011
Russia - Italy 2011
This color publication is devoted to the Year of Italy in Russia, which will see a host of cultural exchanges in 2011, as well as to Italian businesses working in Russia.
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